Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gran Habano Cabinet Selection

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This is a single cigar review sponsored by Silo Cigars.

The Gran Habano Cabinet Selection is a new brand by GR Tabacaleras Unidas, run by Guillermo Rico. Mr. Rico uses tobacco grown on company farms in Nicaragua for this particular puro which includes a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper.

The construction of this cigar is quite handsome with it's neat box press and triple cap. The wrapper is oily and leathery in appearance with a smattering of some medium sized veins. Kevin over at Silo Cigars sent me the Gran Consul size to smoke, which is a hefty 60 ring gauge by 4.75 inches. The Gran Habano Cabinet Selection offers two other vitolas which measure 54 by 6 (Gran Robusto) and 52 by 5 (Robusto).

At 60 ring gauge, I would imagine this size would be a "Super Size Me" Gran Robusto. I have to admit that I really don't care much for 60 and up ring gauge cigars. Men, feel free to claim this vitola as your own. But since it was given to me to review, I can't help but oblige.

Cutting this large box pressed cigar was pretty awkward. I stuck the cap into my Palio as far as it would go and managed to just scrape the back of the cigar. The resulting draw was tight but free. Lighting this monster took more time than I was used to. My cheeks got a work out, but I managed to get it lit evenly. The initial smoke volume was disappointingly thin and the flavor level was surprisingly mild.

The first third of this cigar showed the most complexity with a hodge podge of interesting flavors. Floral and faint leather overtones laced with toffee, along with dash of white pepper and cumin. The taste was smooth and nicely balanced.

The second third introduced some powdered cocoa and a slight hint of raisins with a predominately sweet cedar body. The flavor was still mild to medium. The last third finished off the flavor profile by being solidly medium with strong notes of rich leather and aged tobacco. I also experienced a mild harshness to the back of the throat, but nothing too severe.

Overall, I was surprised at the delicate flavors of this cigar. By appearances, the cigar looked and felt powerful. It's heavy weight and my past experiences with the Gran Habano 3 Siglos gave me pause for concern that I was in over my head. Once I got to smoking it though, I had to laugh at it's lack of punch and bite. Have I worked up a tolerance to nicotine? Doubt it. If it wasn't for the awkward feeling of having a 60 ring gauge box press in my mouth, I could see myself enjoying this cigar as an anytime of the day smoke.

The price of these cigars is around $176 for a box of 20. It's definitely not a cheap smoke. However, if this cigar was available in a 50 ring gauge, I would seriously consider buying them because I enjoyed the mild yet complex flavors and quality construction. If you are a guy that likes large vitolas to pass the time with and are looking for something different, you should give this one a try.

Lo and behold, the Stogie Review does a blind tasting of the 52x5 Gran Habano Cabinet Selection!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

601 Maduro (Blue)

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The 601 Maduro box pressed cigars were introduced in 2007 by United Tobacco (eo brands). It is a Don Pepin Garcia creation manufactured in Esteli, Nicaragua. The 601 Maduros are available in four sizes: robusto (52x5 1/4"), toro (54x6 1/3"), Prominente (56x5 1/2"), and torpedo (52x6 1/8"). All of these sizes are available at Silo Cigars. Prices range from $7.25 to $8.35 a cigar.

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This cigar is a Nicaraguan puro utilizing a Habano Maduro wrapper. The "prize fighter belt"-style cigar band looks really nice against the dark brown color of the wrapper.

The vitola I smoked for this review was the torpedo. The construction was impressive on this box pressed cigar. The cap was long and pointy, giving you flexibility in controlling the draw resistance depending on how much you clip off. I started out with clipping off just a small portion and ended up with a draw that was free but with medium resistance. If you want a fuller volume of smoke, then I would recommend clipping off a more generous portion.

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The wrapper seams were visible but didn't appear to be lifted. There were no heavy veins present and the overall construction was very neat. The texture of the wrapper was very smooth and the feel of the cigar was evenly packed. As for aroma, this cigar was to die for, milk chocolate with a splash of red wine was what came to my mind. (I would imagine a California cab would go wonderfully with it.)

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After lighting my torpedo, I tasted a strong dark coffee flavor along with heavy doses of Cayenne pepper. I had no doubts that I was smoking a DPG cigar once my taste buds and lips started burning. Also in the first third, I tasted a strong Nicaraguan Corojo flavor fading into a slightly sweet vanilla cream that was in a tug-of war with the Cayenne pepper, and losing badly. I also detected some undesirable notes of eucalyptus which fortunately comes and goes. The finish had some tartness reminiscent of red wine.

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The second third flavors settled in nicely, with heavy doses of cinnamon, mocha, creamy vanilla, and not as much pepper. The cigar started off with a slanted burn line which then self-corrected to something more even. The ash is beautiful, light in color, compact and holds on well past the one inch point.

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The final third continues the trend of rich yet smooth flavors. I decided to clip the cigar further since the tobacco started expanding and lessening my smoke volume. This helped tremendously and the resulting smoke was very creamy and full with strong roasted nut and leather flavors coming through. The lack of bitterness made me nub this cigar until my gums burned.

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Overall, I really loved the 601 Maduro (Blue). It comes damn close to smoking like a Cuban cigar. This is the type of premium cigar you savor after a heavy meal with the family. I have no hesitations in planning on buying a box of these cigars because they are that good. Every respectable humidor should have these in them.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Pioneer Valley Especiales Classic

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Pioneer Valley Cigars is a new brand for 2008 that is made in the Dominican Republic by Tabacalera el Torcedor CxA and distributed by CVE Cigars, LLC. of Southwick, Mass. Here is a description of their cigars from their website:

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"The farms of the famed Connecticut River Valley – from Middletown, Connecticut, north to the Massachusetts/Vermont border – have been producing what is generally agreed to be the finest tobacco available for cigar wrappers since the mid-1800s.

Located dead-center of the Connecticut River Valley is Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley. It is here where CVE Cigars draws on the experience of generations of tobacco growers for the authentic Connecticut Valley Shade and Broadleaf tobaccos used in its Pioneer Valley Especiales (PVE) classic and maduro cigars.

The PVE classic is a traditional cigar manufactured with premium hand-selected Connecticut Valley Shade wrapper and the finest Connecticut Valley Broadleaf binder combined with rich Dominican fillers. The PVE classic is available in Churchill, Corona, Robusto, and Torpedo sizes.

The PVE maduro is an authentic dark cigar, wrapped with Connecticut Valley Broadleaf. Our maduro uses mild Connecticut Valley Shade tobacco as binder, combined with rich Dominican fillers. The PVE maduro is available in Churchill, Robusto, Torpedo, and Toro sizes.

Every Pioneer Valley Especiale is handcrafted in the Dominican Republic.

If you long for a traditional cigar that evokes the golden age of cigars, Pioneer Valley Especiales will earn a place as your favorite smoke. "

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Of the two brands that they offer currently, my favorite is the Pioneer Valley Especiales Classic. The craftmanship on this cigar is impeccable. The gorgeous buttery tan USA Connecticut shade wrapper is vein-free with nice tight seams and gives off an aroma of sweet hay fresh off the farm. The texture of the wrapper is smooth and the 43 ring gauge by 5.75 inch corona feels "oh so wonderful" in my hands and mouth.

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The Classic is available in three other sizes, a Churchill (50x7), Robusto (50x5), and Torpedo (52x6.75). The MSRP of these cigars ranges from $118.75/box of 25 for the corona to $129.75/box of 25 for the churchill/torpedo. That's about 4.75 to $5.19 a stick.

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As mentioned above, the Classic uses a USA Connecticut Broadleaf binder and a filler of Dominican tobaccos. I found the flavor of this cigar to be mild to medium. Initially the cigar started off with a nice sweet cream body with hints of vanilla and hay. The finish was clean and toasty with notes of pine wood. I was surprised at the lack of strong coffee flavor considering it uses Connecticut Broadleaf, but nevertheless it provided the cigar with a nice balance of sweetness that was absolutely necessary. The cigar then transitioned nicely in the second half to a nice cedary/leathery profile with a touch of mild pepper on the finish. Overall, the cigar smoked smoothly with no bitterness or harshness.

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The burn characteristics of this cigar helps it to earn many praises, with it's "straight as an arrow" sharp dark ebony burn line that plays off nicely with the elegant black and gold cigar band. The ash is bright white with flecks of pepper and looks compact but needs to be ashed sooner than you think, due to it's small ring gauge.

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This cigar makes a fantastic morning cigar or anytime you need a mild and smooth smoke. I highly recommend it, especially to beginners. Also, I think the ladies would absolutely love the corona size. It's slim and elegant and has a draw that smokes effortlessly.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Best Seller

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Carlos Fuente Jr.'s grandfather made Cuban perfecto cigars when they were popular before the 1950's. They named them Arturo Fuente Fancy Tales. Production of these cigars stopped in the early 70's. When the family moved to the Dominican Republic in 1980, Carlos Fuente Jr. wanted to start making the perfecto shaped cigars again due to his passion for keeping Old World traditions and crafting alive. He asked his father who then went in search of the old molds that were no longer being made. As luck would have it, he found them in their Ybor City factory. The rest is history. They started making the Hemingway Signature (6x47) in 1983, then introduced the "Classic" (48x7) and "Masterpiece" (52x9) in 1988. During that time, they experimented with making smaller perfectos which eventually became the "Short Story" (48x4), which is their biggest seller to date. Due to the difficulty in rolling these perfectos and the extended aging process involved (140 additional days), they are considered a limited production cigar.

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I wish to thank Cigars Direct for sponsoring this review and for providing me with a sampler pack of Arturo Fuente Hemingways.

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The cigar I smoked today is the Hemingway Best Seller. The cigar is listed as 43 to 55 ring gauge by 5 inches. My cigar was not quite up to specs, it measured exactly 4.5 inches. The rest of the cigars in my sampler however, did measure up to exact standards.

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The tobacco used in the Hemingway brand consists of an African Cameroon wrapper, and a secret blend of Dominican tobacco for the filler and binder. The wrapper was medium brown with a light greenish tint. It appeared slightly dry with a few medium veins. The construction was impeccable, despite the glue smudge I found just below the cigar band. The seams are well hidden even at the cap. The cigar has a "paper bag" texture to it, and feels very firm to the touch. The aroma smells strongly of compost.

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The pre-light draw felt firm after clipping the cigar with a Palio cutter. The flavor of the draw was of warm spices reminiscent of powdered ginger, nutmeg and pepper. After lighting the cigar, the draw did open up once it burned past the nipple.

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The initial flavors showed great complexity with immediate floral notes over a cedar base. The body of the smoke is sweet like honey and laced with a sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered ginger. The absence of a peppery punch is probably due to the extended aging of the tobacco. Which was fine by me. This cigar shows a welcome smoothness with it's rich medley of flavor.

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The second third displayed a nice roasted nut aroma added to the already existing floral and cedar undertones. The finish is long and toasty. The last third concludes with a predominate rich leather flavor.

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The ash produced by this cigar was gorgeous, with it's mostly white color and flecks of pepper. It stayed compact in shape until it fell off at the one inch point. The burn line was sharp and aside from the initial lighting, did not require any re-lights or touch ups.

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Overall, I was very impressed by the flavors of this cigar. It had so much complexity for a little smoke that I am tempted to stock up on them for those times when I need a quick smoke that can provide ultimate satisfaction. The price point is about $170.00 for a box of 25. Considering the difficulty and experience needed in rolling these little perfectos, I would say that the price is fair. This is a classic example of you get what you pay for. If quality and flavor are high on your list of priorities, than you definitely can't go wrong with the Arturo Fuente Hemingway cigars.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Los Blancos Criollo

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The Los Blancos Cigar Company was founded in the late 1990s, but the Blanco family has been in the tobacco industry since before the Revolution in Cuba, with roots in the famous Pinar del Rio region. The company is based in Chicago, IL, while their factory is located in Esteli, Nicaragua. The Blancos, along with their cousins the Plasencias, create the Los Blancos cigars in the Segovia factory, commonly known as the "Cathedral", for it's large stained glass windows and exposed wood beamed ceilings.

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I plan on posting several reviews in the upcoming weeks on various brands available from Los Blancos. A special thanks to Mr. David A. Blanco for all his help in making this possible.

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The first cigar I really enjoyed when I smoked it was the Los Blancos Criollo. It is available in six sizes, with many ring gauges to satisfy all connosieurs. I happened to smoke the robusto size which is 52 ring gauge by 5 inches. They are a great value. I have seen prices for singles listed at around $5.50. They are also available in boxes of 24.

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The Los Blancos Criollo is medium brown in color, with a matte finish. The wrapper is slightly veiny and toothy, but the seams are wrapped pretty tightly. The workmanship overall is satisfactory with points taken off for a sloppy cap and some glue smudges left on the cigar. The robusto comes well adorned with a double band, one at the foot and another in it's traditional spot.

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As far as flavor goes, the cigar tastes great right out of the gate. The body of smoke was a little disappointing. I usually like a thick volume of smoke. This cigar emits a light-medium volume but it is loaded with flavor. The cigar has a nice creaminess and sweetness with strong notes of espresso and cedar. Occasionally, the cigar gets tangy with lemon acidity, but certainly nothing overwhelming. A pinch of cinnamon is also present and a welcome addition to the flavor blend.

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The flavors deepen nicely to a syrupy thickness from the second third on. Heavy mocha and cedar dominate while the cigar stays smooth. Care should be taken to smoke slowly to avoid any bitterness from over-heating the cigar. Overall, I experienced no harshness, and found the spice level to be very tolerable.

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If you are looking for another great value cigar. I would recommend trying the Los Blancos cigars. The Los Blancos Criollo is great in that you get nice deep flavors without being overwhelmed. It is balanced and smooth and would make a great everyday cigar. I plan on buying and smoking more of these cigars in the future.

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By the way, if you are not already a member of Women Who Smoke Cigars, you might want to sign up. The Los Blancos Cigar Company is running a contest for members to win a free trip to the Cathedral (Los Blancos factory) in Nicaragua. I for one, would not mind worshipping at that Temple of Tobacco! Click here for details.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown

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With the cool fall temperatures upon us, I found a great new cigar to keep me warm while I freeze my arse off smoking on my backyard deck. The Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown is a peppery smoke, sure to warm your lips and the inside of your mouth, yet does it with smoothness and lots of rich flavor.

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This cigar is made by the factory, Don Leonicios Tabacalera of Tamboril, Santiago, Dominican Republic. It is headed by Abraham Flores and Juan Rodriguez who are now in their fifth year of independent operation. They have created the Pinar Del Rio brand to celebrate the famous tobacco growing and manufacturing region of Cuba.

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Last month, I reviewed the Pinar Del Rio Habano Oscuro which I found to be a full bodied powerhouse. You can read the review here.

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The Habano Sun Grown is rolled with a beautiful reddish brown Dominican Habano Sun Grown tobacco leaf. It has a matte finish and only a few medium sized veins but the seams are nice and tight. The band is attractive and matches the Colorado Maduro color very well. The cigar also contains a Dominican Habano binder and a filler combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos.

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The cigar has a slight lumpiness to it, but feels evenly packed. The quality construction and tobacco is apparent in the ash which is light in color, compact, and holds on strongly well past the one inch mark. I found the burn line to be inconsistent depending on the type of cut I used. When I punch cut the cigar, I got a nice even and sharp burn line versus when I used a guillotine cut, the burn line was a little wavy and needed some touching up. I also found that the spiciness of the cigar could be controlled by using the punch cut. You don't get the big blast of pepper in the beginning than if you had a more generous opening at the head of the cigar. But, let me not get ahead of myself...

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The initial flavors of this cigar started off with a charred "meaty" flavor surrounded by a creamy body with a dark caramel sweetness on the finish. Red pepper notes are present and can be felt as a tingle on the lips and on the tongue. I found that you don't get as much heat on your taste buds if you use a punch cut. The draw is firmer but the smoke is still thick while the pepper comes in much more gradually. The cigar then takes on a more leathery body with a distinctive Corojo-flavored core that is at it's decadent peak in the second third. The red pepper spice fluctuates but is definitely a nice accent to the blend. The cigar smokes very smooth with no harshness or bitterness.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this cigar. It makes a fantastic cold weather smoke because of the heat it generates as far as spiciness goes. It has a satisfying rich full flavor that makes you want to smoke it right down to the nub. If you like spicy, leathery, dark caramel sweet cigars, you will absolutely adore the Pinar Del Rio Habano Sun Grown.

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By the way, these cigars are available in four traditional vitolas. I smoked the robusto which is a 50 ring gauge by 5 inches. The singles prices vary from $5.40 to as high as $6.60 for the churchill. In my opinion, this is a very fair price for the quality of this cigar. Check out Silo Cigars for the availability of the Pinar Del Rio cigars as well as other top of the line boutique brands.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

Panacea Cigars

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Let me tell you about some great new boutique cigars I've recently discovered from the Flatbed Cigar Company called Panacea. "Panacea" by definition, is a cure for all ills or problems. I know from personal experience that if a cigar smokes smoothly and effortlessly and tastes great, than it is definitely a panacea for me.

The two cigars that I smoked for this review, the Panacea Natural robusto (50 ring gauge by 5 inches) and the Panacea Maduro perfecto (51 ring gauge by 6 inches) are hand crafted with quality in mind. The owner of the Flatbed Cigar Company, Mr. Paul Bush has partnered with experienced cigar artesans (with more than 60 years combined experience) in the Dominican Republic who have done work with high quality cigar producers like Davidoff, to manufacture his cigars with the same attention to detail.

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There are two blends in this brand. The Natural is wrapped with a beautiful buttery smooth vein free Ecuadorian Connecticut shade tobacco leaf, while the Maduro has an oily and toothy Brazilian Maduro tobacco swirled with varying shades of dark brown. The filler and binder is the same in both, which is a Dominican binder, Cuban seed Seco and Ligero, Olor Dominicano, and Nicaraguan tobacco.

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Both of the cigars smoked easily and was not at all over powering. They had a nice draw which produced a creamy mouthful of smoke. The Natural cigar was smooth and exhibited flavors of sweet creamy vanilla, cedar, a touch of pepper, and cloves. The cigar had a toasty quality to it and showed consistency in it's flavor with the strength increasing to medium towards the end of the smoke.

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The Maduro version also was pretty consistent and smooth with nice coffee overtones, toasted wood, roasted nut creaminess, and mild spices. The cigar transitioned from medium to full with strong flavors of cedar, nuts and white pepper riding high at the end. The resting smoke of this cigar is fantastic with strong notes of espresso and spice.

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Overall, I found this low production cigar to be quite impressive. The quality of construction is similar to what you would find on most premium cigars from big name manufacturers. I also like the fact that this Bucks County, PA company doesn't follow lock-step with the latest trend of trying to make full-bodied powerhouse smokes. Instead, the Panacea cigars cater to all levels of smokers for refined and relaxing enjoyment. Give them a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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These cigars can be purchased from retailers listed on the Flatbed Cigar Company website or from the manufacturer directly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reyes Family Premier

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I finally got around to smoking the Reyes Family Premier cigar that I received from Mr. Frank Santos of Reyes Family Cigars. This cigar is described as being "rich and robust!" on their website. The cigar uses a Maduro Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder and a filler of Nicaraguan tobacco from the Condega and Jalapa regions. The cigar I smoked was the corona size, but in actuality it is larger than a classic corona being 46 ring gauge by just a little over six inches in length.

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The cigar's wrapper had an unusual look to it, with it's microscopic toothy projections resembling little hairs all over the cigar. It was reddish brown in color with dark brown "varicose vein"-like markings throughout. The feel of the cigar was slightly fuzzy with a few soft spots here and there. After clipping the cigar, I found the draw to be free and clear with minimal resistance.

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The cigar had a nice deep earthy aroma to it while the foot of the cigar smelled of sweet dried prunes. I anticipated getting similar earthy sweet flavors after lighting the cigar.

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The flavor profile of the cigar was pretty consistent with a predominate woody flavor that later became tangy. The other core flavors were roasted peanuts, vanilla, cinnamon and (barely there) pepper, followed by a dark caramel finish. I really had no complaints with the flavor other than it was one-dimensional.

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My biggest complaint however, was in the overall quality of this cigar. The weird hairy wrapper, the burn line and the ash was so ugly, that it doesn't even qualify as being "rustic". That would just give the cigar charm that it doesn't deserve. The burn zone was thick and bulging, and the burn line erratic, requiring frequent touch ups. Every time I took a draw, I could hear the wrapper crackle. The tobacco in the filler was also, burning inconsistently. I don't know if it's too much seco or bad fermentation, but there was always two large holes in the filler making for a frustrating draw.



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if you look hard enough you can

see a smiley face in the ash.

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The ash was a dirty dark gray and looked like petrified wood after being eaten by termites. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but when smoking a cigar becomes a chore, it really isn't worth it. I had to chomp down on it, ash it, and re-light it frequently just to get adequate smoke. Not exactly a pleasant experience.

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I do think this cigar has good potential though, if the tobacco was better fermented and aged. It has decent flavor, but it needs to burn effortlessly to be enjoyable.

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(as a side note)

I really wish to thank Mr. Santos for his generosity in providing me with these sample smokes. Despite knowing that I don't do "kiss a*s" reviews for free smokes, he was still willing to hear what I had to say about his cigars. This shows the dedication that he has for helping to improve their brand. I can't help but be impressed by this, and as a consumer, I will always give these types of cigar companies my business when they create new cigars.

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I'm including the links to other reviews that have already been done on this cigar:

In The Humidor reviews the toro size (6x53)

Cigar Jack reviews the perfecto

Tom and Ed on the Stogie Review with a video review

Keepers of the Flame on the entire line

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Maduro

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The Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Maduro is a new Nicaraguan puro created to celebrate the next generation of Tabacalera Perdomo's original La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve line. Like the original line, these cigars are hefty in size. The churchills I picked up at my local B&M are 54 ring gauge by 7 inches. All the sizes in this line are at least 54 ring gauge with the largest being a figurado at 56 ring gauge.

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This cigar is handsome to look at. The construction was impeccable on the two churchills I purchased. The wrapper had a nice "stained" maduro look with thin veins and a slightly oily sheen. The tooth on the surface gave the cigar a slight course feel and when I gently squeezed the cigar, it felt evenly packed all the way around. The aroma released by the cigar was heavenly and smelled of fruity, sweet, aged tobacco with hints of red wine.

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When I clipped the cigar with my guillotine cutter, I was pleasantly surprised by it's loose draw despite feeling packed with tobacco. The pre-light draw was deeply flavorful with the same fruity tobacco notes and touch of warm spice.

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The cigar lit easily with my torch lighter and the resulting body of smoke was nice and creamy. You will immediately want to recline back and really savor this cigar. The initial flavors were nice with overtones of dark semi-sweet chocolate, warm spices and a touch of cherry acidity. The finish initially was short and toasty.

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Overall, the cigar did not transition too much from it's primary flavors. Once you get into the heart of the cigar, it pretty much gives you consistent enjoyable flavors of mocha, sweet cream and spice, then eventually rich leather, roasted nuts and smooth aged tobacco with a long finish. I had no complaints with the medium body and lack of a red pepper kick. However, there was some ligero present, it just doesn't slap you around like a fuller-bodied peppery smoke. This cigar seemed intent on keeping me relaxed and comfortable. On that note, I strongly believe this is a cigar that everyone can enjoy. My husband, who prefers mild cigars, took a few draws off my cigar and almost didn't give it back. The nerve of him!

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The price point of these cigars is in the $6.50 to $8.00 range, and are available in boxes of 25. I could see myself purchasing more of these cigars again due to their great tasting smooth flavor. It's just a great cigar to relax with. The draw is easy and the smoke is creamy enough to blow smoke rings (if I knew how). If you come across them at your local B&M, pick up a few sticks. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the stock market recovering or, God forbid, a way to temporarily take your mind off of your declining portfolio.



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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Carlos Torano Exodus 1959 Silver Edition

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I was fortunate to receive some new 2008 releases to the Carlos Torano line provided to me by Mr. Bruce Lewis, Brand Manager of CAO International. My only previous experience with Carlos Torano cigars was with the 1916 Cameroon corona, which I absolutely loved. You can read my review of it here. Now, after smoking the Carlos Torano 1959 Silver Exodus, I think I've found myself another favorite cigar.

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The 1959 Silver Exodus line was introduced in 2002. The Exodus line commemorates the exodus of Cuban cigar families after the take over of tobacco farms and cigar factories by the Cuban government in 1959. The Silver Edition version of the Exodus (of which there is also a plain Exodus version) consists of a Honduran Criollo wrapper, Costa Rican binder and a filler of Costa Rican, Honduran and Mexican tobacco. A new size has been added called the Toro Elegante, which is 55 ring gauge by 5.5 inches.

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I don't know how the other vitolas taste but my experience with the Toro Elegante tells me that this is the perfect size for this blend. The whole cigar looks amazing and feels substantial in my hands. The wrapper is nice and oily with tooth visible and no heavy veining. The color is a pretty Colorado Maduro and the shape is box-pressed. The overall construction looks flawless and the tobacco used appears to be high quality. The aroma of the cigar is fabulous. It has a nice sweet and spicy earthy scent and the foot smells even tastier with notes of sweet spiked fruitcake.

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The cigar clipped easily with a double guillotine cutter and the resulting draw was just perfect with only a slight amount of resistance. Because of it's wide ring gauge, it did take more effort to evenly light, but that's just plain common sense. The cigar had a nice "comforting" feel to it despite it's large size. The box press also felt nice every time I took a draw.

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The initial flavors were woody (think oak), spicy (think pepper and cinnamon), creamy, and caramel sweet on the finish. There was a perfect balance of all these flavors with not one overpowering the other. The body of the cigar starts off in the medium range.

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The second and last third expands the blend into a fuller leathery body followed by roasted nuts and a touch of spice. The cigar maintains it's balance with just the right amount of sweetness on the finish. This is one cigar where words just don't do justice to how fantastic it tastes. You must really experience it for yourself.

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The burn quality of this cigar was above average for a box press. The burn line at times was a little un-even, but it corrects itself without having to touch it up with a lighter. There was one point where a small hole in the filler loosened the draw volume, but once I burned past that point, the smoke body improved dramatically.
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The ash was attractive- strong, compact, and light in color.

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Overall, I would have to rank this cigar in my top ten category for the year. It's definitely a cigar that will deliver reliable smooth and complex flavor, and is a must have to keep in your humidor for when other cigars disappoint you. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it at my local B&M or on-line yet. So, if you come across it, let me know so I can buy a box for myself. Depending upon where you shop, prices appear reasonable, with the most expensive being $4.10 for the torpedo or a box of 25 for $87.95. For what you are getting, this is a definite steal.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Current Favorite Cigar Is...

(contributed by Sandi of WWSC- Women Who Smoke Cigars)


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My current favorite cigar is the Punch Gran Puro (Rancho size, 54 by 5.5")

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I previously smoked the Punch Gran Puro years ago and didn't care for it. However, during the summer, I attended a Punch Event at Renaissances Cigar Emporium (located in NYC) and was blown away. I had purchased 2 cigars and received one free. I didn't smoke the cigars right away, but instead allowed the cigars to rest in the humi for a week. One nice Friday evening, I decided to try the Punch (again). "Wow!", is all I could say.

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The Punch Gran Puro is made with 100% Honduran grown tobaccos, with an extra-dark, extra-bold Havana-seed wrapper. I was in awe during my Friday evening ritual of smoking in front of my building. The Punch Gran Puro was very well constructed, had a nice aroma and lots of white smoke. Since I was smoking outside, I wasn't drinking my usual Flor de Cana rum (7 yr aged), but as soon as the weekend arrives, I will try the Punch Gran Puro and the Flor de Cana rum together to see if it enhances the experience.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kristoff Maduro Ligero

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A couple of months ago, I reviewed the Kristoff Criollo churchill which I absolutely adored. This time, I had the chance to smoke the Kristoff Maduro Ligero robusto. Thanks to Kevin over at Silo Cigars for sending me a sample to try out.

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The "Ligero" version of Kristoff cigars add 70% Nicaraguan ligero for a more full-bodied experience. While I didn't mind the medium bodied Kristoff Criollo, I did think that the Kristoff Maduro needed some extra oomph. Thankfully, Exclusive Cigars came out with the Ligero version of their popular Kristoff cigars.

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The Kristoff Ligero Maduro contains Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, a Dominican Cuban seed binder, and a very rustic looking Brazilian Maduro wrapper. This cigar looks straight out of the barrio, with it's twisted pig-tail cap and covered shaggy foot, just like the original Kristoffs. The oily wrapper had some gnarly looking veins and some minor discoloration, but despite these imperfections, it actually looked and smelled pretty tasty.

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The cigar feels nicely packed. I chose to clip the cap with a Palio cutter and the resulting draw was perfect. Free and clear with a touch of resistance, just the way I like it. The cigar starts out in the medium range. I was a little disappointed with the smoke volume at first and I experienced little of that 70% ligero that was promised. The initial flavors were dark chocolate, a touch of cherry, caramel and a little bit of cinnamon. The flavors were smooth with no bitterness and tasted very similar to the regular Kristoff Maduro.

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Eventually, the cigar begins to liven up. It develops a nice nuttiness past the one inch mark along with pepper on the finish. The chocolate flavor now begins to taste more like dark roasted coffee along with notes of fruity acidity. Sometimes I tasted quick flashes of earthy mushroom, but mostly the predominate flavors were coffee, cherry, roasted nuts and red pepper. The ligero is definitely there. It just sneaks up on you and introduces the heat gradually. You should definitely have some water handy and make sure your stomach is full and you're sitting down because you are going to need it for this cigar.

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The ash on this cigar is light gray and compact. The heavy veins posed no major issues and in fact looked quite attractive when "etched" into the ash. The ash does hold on well past the one inch point until you are ready to tap it off. The burn line was sharp and slanted but not unbearable.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this cigar. It is so relaxing to smoke it, with it's easy draw and deliciously smooth earthy flavors. The extra ligero does make it quite potent though and I would not recommend it for beginners. For seasoned smokers, it does provide a nice accent to the blend, and in my opinion, is an improvement over the original Kristoff Maduro.

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The robusto retails for $7.75 a cigar, which is $1.75 more than the original Kristoff Maduro. I personally would pay extra for the Ligero version becauses it is a much more exciting cigar. You can also purchase a box of 20 for $154.95. This and other sizes are available at Silo Cigars, the source for the best boutique brands and the best service.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Sudeste Cubano Coronita

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The Sudeste Cubano is a new cigar just recently released by Silo Cigars. I spoke with Kevin Phillips (owner of Silo Cigars) who talked with me about his experience with creating this new cigar. You can read the interview by clicking here.

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When I received the cigars, I was really impressed with the way it looked. The gorgeous Modern/Industrial cigar band with bright red and gold foil accents plays off nicely against the back drop of the wrapper which is a nice rich dark brown color. The wrapper is a Sun Grown Habano from Ecuador that displays a nice earthy aroma. Overall, the cigar looks well constructed and finshed off with a neat triple cap. The rest of the cigar is composed of an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler.

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I've decided to review the Coronita size first because I really love the feel of this particular vitola in my hands. It is 44 ring gauge by 5.5 inches, and I can't think of a more perfect size for women to feel comfortable with. Although I'm sure a lot of men would enjoy this small size for a convenient smoke when time just doesn't allow for something bigger.

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The cigar smokes smooth and easy, with just the perfect draw which isn't too loose or too difficult. I attribute this to the fact that they are rolled by experienced Cuban rollers who have years of experience. The cigar starts off medium bodied with notes of Asian cinnamon, dark coffee and vanilla. I also tasted a woody element but could not specifically determine which kind. The finish is short and clean.

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This Coronita is the type of cigar that just gets better as you continue to smoke it. There is a nice harmony to the blend that really hits it's stride in the second third. The cigar makes a nice transition into a more creamier body of roasted nuts, hot spices, and a touch of caramel sweetness on the finish. The spice level is just the right amount without going overboard into harshness.

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The final third moves the cigar up into the full bodied category, with a predominate leathery character and a nice long finish. I liked that the cigar stayed cool even though the ash was near my finger tips.

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Overall, I really enjoyed smoking the Sudeste Cubano Coronita. The cigar smoked really smooth and cool despite being a small ring gauge cigar. The flavors are nicely balanced and not too spicy so I think most levels of cigar smokers can tolerate it. The cigar is priced at $5.60 a stick and is also available in boxes of 20 for $100.80. This is a small production cigar made in Little Havana Miami with only 10,000 cigars made. I would definitely recommend trying them before they sell out.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Avalon Numbers Series #48 (Cameroon Oscuro)

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The Numbers Series by Avalon are made in Miami, FL and is composed of three different wrappers, a dark African Cameroon for numbers 48/52/54, a light African Cameroon for numbers 38/50, and a Brazilian Maduro for numbers 44/46. The numbers refer to the ring gauges of the various sizes offered. The filler and binder is the same for all three groups. The binder is Ecuadorian, while the filler is from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

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I was fortunate enough to obtain a sample pack of six cigars from Avalon Cigars. Three are from the Numbers Series and the other three are from the Juke Series. This review of the #48 is the first of six reviews I plan to do on Avalon Cigars.

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The #48 is a robusto which is 5.75 inches long. The other sizes in the Cameroon Oscuro group is a churchill (52x7) and a torpedo (54x6). I am not certain of the prices of these cigars as they don't seem to be widely distributed. You can go to their website for current retail locations and contact information.

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I'm sorry to say that the cigar that I received to review was really in bad shape. The wrapper looked really fragile and a good chunk of it was broken off near the foot of the cigar.


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As far as the rest of the cigar, it really had me crying the blues. The wrapper was dry and really veiny. It did however, looked like a Cameroon wrapper with a toothy appearance and slight coarseness. The cigar smelled earthy and had a pre-light flavor of prunes. The draw was perfect with just a touch of resistance.

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The initial flavors were harsh and lacked balance. Strong woody flavors dominate along with heavy doses of spice. The tone was acidic and salty and lacked a counter punch of creaminess and sweetness. It was as if the sugars in the cigar were cooked to the point of bitterness. This coupled with the persistent spicy heat (which I usually enjoy in a cigar) made for a throat irritating experience.

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The cigar never really "settled down". It did develop a nice nutty taste but it continued to be overwhelmed with a harsh woody flavor that comes off as bitter and acidic. I almost quit smoking the cigar because I knew that these flavors would only deepen the longer I smoked the cigar. Sure enough, the last third turned to heavy bitter leather and pepper.

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I really wanted to like this cigar too. I love the way Avalon markets their cigars. They have a nice Southern, Bluesy, laid back theme in their advertisements. I just with they could put as much energy into improving the blending and flavor of this particular cigar. Granted one cigar and one review doesn't accurately summarize their whole operation. But, it does leave a bad impression on me as a reviewer and consumer. I could be nice and say this cigar just needs time in the humidor. But really, why should anyone waste humidor space on a cigar that starts off unpleasant in hopes that it will mellow with age. There are just too many outstanding cigars available on the market now than to have to settle for that.

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Unfortunately, I'm kickin this #48 to the curb and moving on, at least to the next cigar in my Avalon sampler pack. I'll keep you up to date.


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